The ancient Chinese text the Nei Jing, `The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine' tells us that the Heart is the spiritual and emotional center of the body and on its deepest level is residence to the Shen – the eternal spirit and source of joyful serenity. Most of us identify with the habitual self – that heavy collection of habits, likes and dislikes that we call `self' and take far too seriously. Instead we need to align ourselves with the joyful lightness and radiance that is the natural state of the Heart Shen and in this way come to view ourselves and others with good humor and compassion.
Let go of the burden of the habitual and serious self with its rigid opinions, its likes and dislikes; relax and find contentment in all that life brings. Daoists tell us to lighten up by embracing without resistance all the events of our lives and all of our reactions towards those events – both pleasurable and painful. As we open our hearts to embrace life, we connect and align with the Shen, balance the Heart Fire and return to our innate state of happiness
Daoists' created practices that translated their spiritual insights to the physical body, and these exercises help us to cultivate a sense of being whole in all of body, mind and spirit. Daoist exercises traditionally use breathing, visualizations and meditation to quieten and open the heart, and so connect with its natural sense of happiness.
Although there is a Chinese saying "laughter is the best medicine" and research shows that laughing lowers the blood pressure and keeps the heart healthy, Daoists might say that smiling – particularly the practice of the Inner Smile goes deeper to cultivate a lasting happiness. It is this exercise that can align the practitioner with the Shen and so connect him with his true source of inner happiness.
• Sit on a chair with straightened spine and closed eyes.
• As you inhale, feel a movement all the way down to the Dan Tien – the energy center just below the naval. Allow your abdomen to expand as your diaphragm moves down in a full breath, then let your abdomen relax as you exhale completely. Breathe continuously, with no pauses between the exhalation and the inhalation;
• As you breathe, smile into your naval and Dan Tien and then bring your awareness into your heart area;
• Feel the flame of love deep within your heart – a warm light that is your deepest, most real Self. Smile into your Heart Center and feel the healing light of the Shen radiating out to all the cells of your heart;
• Now turn your awareness to each of your organs in turn – stomach and spleen, lungs and intestines, kidneys and bladder, gall bladder and liver, and smile into each organ whilst breathing deeply and feeling calm and peaceful;
• Come back to the heart and rest there feeling the Inner Smile harmonizing and balancing your energy and be aware of the serene happiness of the Shen – your eternal spirit.